Farm Labor Reality Tour 2014

March 16, 2014

Check out the WhyHunger Blog with a great write up about the Farm Labor Reality Tour.  Featuring a video of our own Bob and Julie talking about the plight of small farmers every where.

From the post:  “The two events are almost 1,400 miles apart, but the two groups continue to stand in solidarity with each other, one year removed from last winter’s Farm Labor Reality Tour. In 2013, Maine farmer Bob St. Peter, co-founder of Food for Maine’s Future and FFD board member, traveled with his family from Maine to rural Wisconsin and Minneapolis to meet with FFD member farmers and learn about the ongoing crisis in small-scale dairy farming–and then down to Florida to walk 200 miles with the CIW’sMarch for Rights, Respect and Fair Food. They were joined on the march in Florida by some of those same Wisconsin dairy farmers, including John Kinsman, on what would turn out to be his final activist trip. The tour aimed to highlight the common struggles faced by all those laboring in the food system and explore how to work together rather than being pitted against each other.

“We will not allow farmers and farmworkers to be pitted against each other,” said Bob at the closing rally of the march on the final day of the tour. “We don’t want to fight over a very small piece of pie. We want a bigger pie.”


Action for Farm Workers in Ellsworth

March 11, 2014

    This past weekend, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) marched on Wendy’s Headquarters in Columbus, Ohio. This is the start of their 10 day “Now is the Time” tour from Ohio to Florida, asking Wendy’s and southern grocery chain, Publix, to pay a penny more per pound for tomatoes, and to buy from farms that ensure labor rights are observed. The CIW is a coalition of famworkers in Florida who pick the nation’s winter tomato crop.
    On Saturday, March 15th, the Community Union of Ellsworth invites you to come out and weigh in against low wages at Wendy’s in Ellsworth. (see below and attached)

WENDY, SPARE a PENNY!
For decades, Florida farmworkers have faced sub-poverty wages, wage theft, sexual harassment, physical abuse and more. But today, an historic partnership among farmworkers, Florida tomato growers, and major food companies is building a new tomato industry that respects the rights of farmworkers: the Fair Food Program.
The Fair Food Program consists of a wage increase supported by the additional penny-a-pound paid by corporate buyers of Florida tomatoes, and a human-rights-based Code of Conduct, a verifiable and sustainable approach to ending abuse and ensuring better wages and work conditions for Florida tomato pickers.
Of the five giant fast food chains – McDonald’s, Subway, Burger King, Taco Bell, and Wendy’s – Wendy’s is the only one refusing to join the Fair Food Program.
Join us on
March 15 – Saturday – 11:00 a.m.
at Ellsworth Wendy’s on High St.

We’ll be telling Wendy’s and everyone that

LOW PAY IS NOT OK!
for Fast Food Workers or Farm Workers
Sponsor: Community Union of Ellsworth (find us on Facebook)
Rally info: 667-4877. Info on Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Fair Food Program: http://www.ciw-online.org


New Milk and Cheese Bill Hearing This Week!

March 2, 2014

“We always hear about the rights of democracy, but the major
responsibility of it is participation.”
–Wynton Marsalis

PUBLIC HEARING ON NEWLY PROPOSED MILK AND CHEESE BILL ON MARCH 4TH AT
1PM IN ROOM 214 of the CROSS BUILDING.

Public notice is short during this short session, but legislative and
public support for direct sales of fresh, unprocessed dairy keeps
growing. This time around, several Maine Cheese Guild members have been
working on bill language with Rep. Bill Noon (D-Sanford) on LD 1286 An
Act To Allow the Sale of Unregulated Farm-produced Dairy Products at
the Site of Production.

We have worked hard time and again to raise our voices over the last
five years to keep traditional ways of exchanging food legal. Each
time, awareness is raised, more understanding is reached and…we get
closer.

It is time for us to once again raise our voice, submit testimony,
attend the public hearing. PARTICIPATE! This bill aims to restore the
legitimacy to small-scale dairies that was stripped away by internal
language changes by the Quality Assurance and Regulations Division of
the Department of Agriculture in 2009. Please read the bill carefully.
Please consider it well. Please raise your voice and submit your
testimony to the Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.
If you can, please attend the hearing in Augusta this Tuesday.”

Links below:

Committee Info.: Please submit testimony (one page or less is good) to
the clerk of the committee linked on the page:
http://www.maine.gov/legis/house/jt_com/acf.htm

Bill Text:
http://www.mainelegislature.org/legis/bills/getPDF.asp?paper=HP1278&item=1&snum=126


Agricultural Coexistence?????

January 18, 2014
USDA Requests Public Input on “Agricultural Coexistence” 
GMO/GE Contamination USDA Website Working Now! 
New Deadline March 4

MOFGA notified its Bulletin readers last week that USDA is seeking comments by March 4 – an extended deadline – on its proposals for coexistence among farmers who use genetically engineered crops and those who don’t (including organic growers and conventional growers who do not use GE/GMO seed). Unfortunately, the USDA comment site was not working after that notification appeared. It is working now – so please let USDA know what you think about coexistence between farms that do and do not use genetically engineered crops. More information.

Comment online via the Federal eRulemaking portal or mail comments to 
Docket No. APHIS-2013-0047 
Regulatory Analysis, and Development 
PPD, APHIS, Station, 3A-03.8 
4700 River Road Unit 118 
Riverdale, MD 20737-1238

Farmers and handlers may send an anonymous comment outlining their experiences and costs through the National Organic Coalition. 

We Need Your Help to Over-ride Yet Another LePage Veto!

January 13, 2014

GOVERNOR LEPAGE VETOES JOBS BILL FOR MAINE FARMS.

Please contact your representative and senator to urge override of LePage’s Veto on LD 1254. Help keep Maine’s Food Dollars in Maine’s economy.

When are we going to invest in our state’s food production? When are we going to invest in the self-sufficiency in the state of Maine? If not now, when?

During the legislature’s first week back in session, Governor LePage was a quick draw to his veto pen. He vetoed another bill that would help solidify policy to promote the viability of Maine farms. The governor vetoed LD 1254 An Act to Increase Consumption of Maine Foods in All State Institutions put forward by Rep. Hickman of Winthrop. This bill requires state funded institutions to incrementally increase to 35% the amount of Maine grown food they purchase between now and 2035.

In response to the governor’s veto, Rep. Hickman has this to say about his bill which passed by 2/3 vote last session:

“My bill would require all state-funded institutions, not government agencies, to purchase a percentage of foodstuffs from Maine food producers. Those percentages increase incrementally over the next 20 years in order to make them achievable and fiscally responsible. By committee amendment, schools that participate in the Federal School Lunch Program are exempt. The bill is, therefore, NOT an “unfunded mandate” (on either local school districts OR state government) because if the food isn’t competitively priced and available, there is no requirement for any state institution to purchase it. 

It is the policy of the state to be food self-sufficient and my bill is a small step toward realizing that goal.

If you believe, as I do, that we need to spend more of our taxpayer dollars on food produced by Maine people for Maine people so that we keep more of our money in the state, reduce our reliance on foods imported from who knows where, grow a more robust food economy up and down the state, and create desperately needed jobs right here in Maine, then call, write, or visit your representatives and senators today, tomorrow, and the next and urge them to vote to override this veto. 

Maine’s hardworking food producers — farmers, fishermen, processors and distributors, small and large — are counting on you. “

The University of Maine-Orono is one example of an institution that has shifted its purchasing power towards Maine grown food by already purchasing 30% of its food from Maine sources. Here is a model to help other Maine institutions shift their buying power.

Right now, most of our tax payer dollars that help fund institutional food buying are going to out of state corporations like Sysco and Aramark, NOT Maine farms and NOT circulating in Maine’s economy, strengthening our communities. LD 1254 amplifies an existing law that already requires institutions to keep their dollars in Maine and help promote our state’s economy; it simply goes one step further by adding some benchmarks of accountability by adding a percentage and a timeline. There is no penalty for non-compliance with this law, but the implemenation benchmarks help provide some measure of accountability to our legislators and taxpayers.

The barriers to local farms to institutional markets are significant, and this bill could help create space for small farms to become mid-size farms, mid-size farms to scale up and hire farm help; large farms to gain a market for “seconds”. Maine’s strength can be found in our primary economic engines: our farmers, fishers and forestry, the emblems of our heritage on our state’s flag. If we want more Maine jobs, we need to start with policies

that help promote the growth and strengthen our primary economy, not undercut and divert resources away from our farms and fisherfolk toward agri-food corporate giants whose dollars don’t circulate in our own economy. LD 1254 is a step toward turning policy support toward Maine farms by requiring our state-funded institutions to buy food in Maine.

One of the principles of food sovereignty is to re-organize food trade: towards state and local economies and away from multi-national, globalized food corporations. Food is first and foremost a source of nutrition and only secondarily an item of trade. Priority is placed on domestic production and food self-sufficiency. Food imports must not displace local production nor depress prices.

Please contact your senator and your representative today to urge them to over ride Governor LePage’s veto and support LD 1254. This vote could be held early this week. The voice of the big food industry speaks loud and often and LePage is listening. Raise your voice for Maine food, her farmers and our local economy. Keep Maine’s food dollars in Maine’s economy!


Betsy Testifies Against the TPP

December 13, 2013

Good Evening, my name is Betsy Garrold, I homestead in Knox and I serve as President of the Board of Directors of Food for Maine’s Future and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Belfast Co-op.   I am here tonite to speak on behalf of Food for Maine’s Future.

Back in 2003, in the face of NAFTA, CAFTA,  Plan Puebla Panamá, etc etc I participated in the meetings that drafted the legislation which eventually lead to the formation of this commission.   I wanted the wording of the legislation to be stronger and the commission to have more enforcement teeth but these hearings were a good place to start.  It is heartening to see that these public hearings are still happening.  So thank you to Senator Jackson and Representative Treat  for keeping this public platform alive and well.

When I was asked to come here today and talk about the impact TPP will have on food security, food sovereignty and food safety,  I had to think long and hard about exactly what to say.    If I say food will be less safe because the TPP will negate food safety regulations then that directly contradicts  what Senator Jackson heard me testify again and again this past spring in the legislature.   I believe that more regulation does not make safer food.   Rather, knowing where your food comes from and who is producing it, so that you can make informed decisions about where to spend your food dollars, is the key to a safer food system.   Notice I did not say safe.   Nothing is 100%.   Whether your organic carrots come from next door or from China there is always the chance they may be contaminated in some way.    What I propose is that the farmer next door is not going to deliberately contaminate the produce they sell you in order to make a buck.   Unlike food manufacturers  in China who could, and did, contaminate infant formula, pet food, eggs and other food products with melamine in what the World Health Organization calls one of the largest food safety events in recent years.

I am going to read you something written by a young woman affiliated with a group I had the honor of addressing this past summer; Real Food Challenge.  This group works with university students to encourage college cafeterias to buy more locally sourced food.   This initiative is one of the newer attempts to help small, local farmers sell more product locally.  Farm to institution sales.  Just one more income stream that will help family farms keep their heads above water financially.

Natalie Yoon, United Students for Fair Trade, wrote concerning four key points about the TPP and our food system.  This is what she had to say  (with some interjections and asides from me).

1. Small producers will be wiped out. As the TPP removes tariffs and basic protections from international markets, it will be very difficult for small farmers to stay afloat in the face of international competition.  In countries like Japan (and I might add states like Maine) where 80% of the agriculture sector is made up of small farmers, the TPP will wipe out entire communities and replace small farms with large agribusinesses.

2. The TPP will drastically bring down food safety standards at home and abroad. Governments will be forced to “harmonize” their food safety standards to the lowest common denominator. That means soon we could all be eating imported seafood, beef, and chicken that doesn’t meet even the basic U.S. standards. The FDA would be powerless to shut down these imports of unsafe food or food ingredients. (Now this may be a good thing, it may encourage more and more folks to buy local, buy food where they know the farmers face, but it also could be an unmitigated disaster,)

3. We won’t be allowed to know where our food comes from or what’s in it (like melamine). Food labels will also come under fire under the TPP. Transnational corporations like Monsanto are using the TPP to make it illegal to label products as containing GMOs, since it discriminates against them.  Corporations have even argued that “locally grown” labels give unfair advantage to small domestic producers over international businesses. (There goes our recently minted GMO labeling bill that we all fought so hard to get enacted and even the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s own “Get Real, Get Maine” label and campaign.)

4. Governments won’t be allowed to support local food. Under the TPP, government food procurement policies that prioritize supporting their local economies will be illegal. That means that your public university (and I add public schools, public hospitals, etc.) might not be allowed to intentionally source food from local farms, since it violates “free trade” terms by discriminating against foreign farms.

Free trade agreements have for years undermined our national economy and caused the shipping of manufacturing jobs overseas.   Those of us who farm had a false sense of security that at least our jobs could not be uprooted and sold to the lowest bidder.   Please help us continue to believe that by doing all you can to make the TPP, if not a bad notion abandoned, at least a document strong enough to protect small local producers whether they are farmers, fishers, or foresters.

 


Local Food Rules Harvest Meal Hosted by Food for Maine’s Future

November 5, 2013

You are all invited to attend a potluck, harvest bounty swap and strategy session at the Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast.

Saturday, November 16th from 11:30 to 1:30 at the Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast.

Please bring yourselves, anyone else you know who is interested in the important food sovereignty work we are doing, a pot luck dish to share, you own picnic ware and an item from your own personal food bounty to place on the swap table.
And a good, productive time will be had by all!

Contact Betsy at hgarrold@yahoo.com with any questions.   See the event listing on our Facebook page.


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